Ain’t it interesting how one single company can change things that remained unchanged for centuries before? If you ask people today “What is an online marketplace?” they will certainly answer “eBay, of course.”
But why do we call eBay a market place? I think there are two big differences that don’t really match the marketplace idea.
Of course, eBay is a platform where buyers and sellers can meet. But there ends the similarity. First of all eBay is a platform for auctions and fixed prices. eBay is taking several commissions, some prior and some after a sale. Plus eBay is actively controlling the process of buying and selling.
I have a friend here in Brittany who runs a small coffee roastery. Several times during the week he sells his coffee on the local markets. When he arrives there he has to talk with the market manager and the manager will then tell him where to place the stand for the day. Later during the market, the manager will go around the market and collect the fee for the day.
This is how an offline market works, for centuries. There are some rules about the placement and of course some rules of the country affecting what you can sell, about hygene in the food sector etc. But the process between the seller and the buyer is absolutely free and only between those two people involved.
Now if we would take the eBay marketplace offline, what would that mean?
First of all, if you would put your merchandise on the table so that people passing by could see it, you would have to pay a fee (gallery picture). If you want to save on this fee you could only place little signs with the names of what you are selling on the table. You would then be allowed if a customer asked for more detail to show him the merchandise (no gallery picture, user clicks on the item for more information).
If you would sell cheap stuff under one Euro there won’t be a fee but above that you would have to pay a fee according to the price of the merchandise you put on your table.
If you finally sold something, another fee would be applicable again according to the price.
Pretty annoying, don’t you think? Who would sell his coffee, veggies or fish on a market like this? Right, noone.
So why do we accept this online? Only because it is simple, because the market manager does not have to come around every time we sell something to collect the fee?
Now coming back to language learning platforms. Why do teachers have to pay a commission on the lessons they gave? Why isn’t there just a monthly fee to pay and the rest is up to the teacher?
Why do platforms need to control everything? Interesting enough when eBay had its problems with people selling fake desinger clothes they always insisted on “eBay is just the platform. The seller is responsible for the rest.”
To be dependent on the commission of sold lessons seems to lead, at least in the most cases, to a controlled system as the platform is only making money if the teachers sell classes without really having the power to force the teacher to get to work. But if the teacher has no pressure as he does not lose any money being not active there is no real reason for him to go out and search for students and to give lessons.
On the other hand a teacher who is actively searching for students and takes the business seriously is always looking for ways to maximize his profit. So in the end he is looking for ways to avoid paying the commission as the only reason for the teacher to use a platform is to find a student.
So why all the hassle? Collect a monthly fee and everybody is happy. Market places in Europe work for centuries with this system. Whole cities were build around them. There is no reason why this system should not work online.
The great plus for the platforms: if you collect a fee you can be sure that only teachers who really want to sell lessons will be on your platform which leads you automatically to more quality and loyalty (read my post about Online teachers, mercenaries of education).